Pic of the Week 20071130

In honor of my ongoing trials and tribulations with Donna's Vista laptop. From the geniuses at Ctrl+Alt+Del.


How to Cure PackRat-itis

Sweet, and new site for decluttering. The more I read, the more I get motivated. A lot of what the article mentions I've already read on Zen Habits, but some good points are made and a few nice tips as well. I'll have to keep an eye on this site.


My brain is feeling fogged up today. I'm not exactly bored, I mean I still have a bunch to do at work, getting installs together and mailing them out, lots of other administrative minutiae... but I'm just not feeling the motivation. Some of that may be due to digging into Facebook. I tell ya, I joined just as a lark since I knew people on it, but it has truly become a fabulous time-waster. Much more so than Myspace, which just seems juvenile in comparison. As a bonus, I hooked up with my cousins in California, who I haven't talked to in ages, and a friend from high school that I haven't heard from since we graduated.

I'm not sure what's attracting me to Facebook... It's nice to have feedback I suppose, and be noticed by others - I got all warm and fuzzy when Felicia Day left a comment on my blog - but even aside from that there are so many peculiar social tools and outlets on there, I've barely scratched the surface. Personally, I like the mini-bar. I sent out Fuzzy Navels to all my friends. W00t.

This weekend, time to get the Christmas decorations up. I was pondering the idea of cutting back a bit on all the exterior lights and blow-ups and deer and such... but then our new redneck neighbor got his out this past weekend, in all its technicolor glory.

It is ON now.


Hello Facebook

Well, took the plunge finally. What the hey, I just didn't have enough coverage between my blog here, MySpace garbage, and LinkedIn...

Gas Pumping Tips

These seem like they may make sense... I may try to follow them (I do the third one anyways) but I wonder if a site such as snopes.com would rebuke them (I didn't see anything there)...

1) Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening... your gallon is not exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

2) When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

3) One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY. The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.

4) If there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up -- most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

Let me know what you think - crackpot ideas or possibly ways to help you get the most value for your money


2008 LOLCalendar

Yep. Doesn't get much better than this. Why bother going out and buying some boring calendar when you can download this one for free? Yes, that is exactly what you read, a LOLCalendar, full of cute kitty pictures with ridiculous captions.

Sheer genius, I tell ya.

Give Thanks

I know at times I can get a little down on the state of our nation, the direction we're heading in, and the incompetence of the leadership. But let me be clear on one thing: Even though I may vehemently oppose our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and despair at the curtailment of freedoms here at home, I do fully support the men and women of the armed services and those who put their lives on the line, whether overseas or in my home town.

This week America celebrates Thanksgiving, a holiday filled with friendship, family, and gratitude. We pause to give thanks for our prosperity, our liberty, and the many blessings that run deep through our great Nation.

During this time, let us not forget the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who daily put their lives in danger to ensure our freedom. As we sit down with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day there are thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines around the globe who will not see their loved ones this holiday season.

This week, to honor their sacrifice and send them just a small token of appreciation, you can text a thank you message to our military members, letting them know they are in our hearts and prayers throughout the holidays. Text 8 9 2 7 9 and say thank you. The “America Supports You” program run by the Department of Defense will tally the number of text messages and let the troops know the volume of gratitude expressed by their fellow Americans.

Please take a moment to send a text, forward this in an e-mail to your family and friends, and say thank you to the men and women who daily fight in defense of our liberties. Visit www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil for more on this and other programs that support our troops.

God willing, they can all be home soon.


Top Ubuntu Linux Games

If you’ve switched to Ubuntu (as I have) or any other Linux distribution, you may consider the following free (and in most cases open-source) games, as they’ve been favorites of mine for some time now... Excellent round-up of some FPS, RTS and RPG games I didn't even know were available on Linux. And not just single-player, but some you can hook up online with some opponents!



Calif. Court Rejects SUV Mileage Rules

A federal court in California yesterday rejected the Bush administration's new fuel economy standards for light trucks including SUVs, ruling that the government failed to take into account the effects of carbon emissions and their possible link to global warming.



The Bush Administration Plans to Blame You for Iraq

Well, I was gonna be done for the day, but then two things happened. One, the powers-that-be are late in getting me my builds so I can get cracking on them nefore tomorrow's installs. And I really don't feel like dealing with test bed issues. And then two, I can across the following article. I think I found a new and fun site to keep up with...
The world's finest military launches a highly coordinated shock-and-awe attack that shows enormous initial progress. There's talk of the victorious troops being home for Christmas. But the war unexpectedly drags on. As fighting persists into a third, and then a fourth year, voices are heard calling for negotiations, even "peace without victory." Dismissing such peaceniks and critics as defeatists, a conservative and expansionist regime -- led by a figurehead who often resorts to simplistic slogans and his Machiavellian sidekick who is considered the brains behind the throne -- calls for one last surge to victory. Unbeknownst to the people on the home front, however, this duo has already prepared a seductive and self-exculpatory myth in case the surge fails.

The United States in 2007? No, Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 and 1918, as its military dictators, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his loyal second, General Erich Ludendorff, pushed Germany toward defeat and revolution in a relentless pursuit of victory in World War I...

Excellent article, well worth the read. Not exactly a reactionist fare, but it does make you wonder what new lows Georgie will sink to... And you can sign up for cool newsletters from the site as well. Some interesting environmental stuff, I'll perhaps blog more on them after receiving a few emails.

Pic of the Week 20071115

In keeping with my new Thursday schedule, here's today's Pics of the Week. Yes, plural. It's a two-for-one bonus feature.

So, I go where now?

Talk about directionally-challenged...

Developing the Habit of Blogging

So it would seem my usual trend of blogging is to report on a news bit or repost another person's blog, sometimes with an attached comment or opinion on my part. Not terribly insightful. Sometimes I still fall into the trap of thinking my opinions aren't really worth much to others, and certainly my blog doesn't have the high viewership of, say, Zen Habits or Felicia Day, so does it really matter what I post? Existentially, why am I even bothering with this?

I read an interesting post today, made by Leo Babauta who writes on Zen Habits. Anyways, the article, 8 Rules to Develop the Habit of Blogging, made me think some about why I write here. Do I really want extended viewership? Do I want to lay a framework to make money off of blogging? Or as I read somewhere (darned if I can recall the source), do i just want to keep a positive flow of information attached to me online? (Ever try Googling yourself? It's easier for me as I've used the same handle since the internet was in its infancy...)

Looking back at my posting rate, I seem to be at least keeping to (mostly) a weekly schedule; meaning I will get at least one post per week, averaging about 5 or so. The one failure is keeping to a Pic of the Week schedule; I think instead of running this on Fridays (when I'm in the midst of hectic installations) I will be doing them on Thursdays in the morning, while I'm still waiting on my builds to be delivered. Sound like a plan?

For the rest of Leo's article, I'm going to digest it a bit and see what I think of it. I like the idea of reading more blogs for inspiration, yet I don't always have the time to do so... The trick is coming up with some original thoughts on opinions, by themselves or in response to another blog/news bit. And I still need to decide on the path I am following here.

In closing, for a random bit of coding trivia, see if you can decipher this:
$DO || ! $DO ; try
try: command not found

Got it yet?


If Taglines Were Honest

iPod: It’ll break in a year, but by then you’ll want the new one.

Apple: You think you need it, we know you just want it.

Samsung: Didn’t you mean to buy Sony?

Ikea: One day you’ll be able to afford real furniture.

Hummer: Get the attention you’ve always craved. While filling up the gas tank again.

Taco Bell: You’re drunk and we’re still open.

Zipcar: So convenient that you’ll ignore the high rates AND the dog hair.

Southwest Airlines: On your marks, get set, find a seat!

UHaul: We don’t guarantee availability because we can get away with it.

PopTarts: Until you realize how disgusting they are, we’ll keep making them.

Ben and Jerry’s: Whoah, dude, did you eat that whole thing?

Krispy Kreme: Less filling, just as fattening.

McDonalds: Always a good idea. Until afterwards.

Starbucks: Long lines, high prices and the best legal high available.


Pic of the Week 20071107

Click on the thumbnail for the full image. How I love Doonesbury. (And what liberal trend I've been displaying lately...)

The $500 Gaming PC Upgrade

Building a powerful PC for gaming doesn't have to be expensive. In this article, FiringSquad spends $500 on a gaming upgrade, and compares its performance to that of a high-end Core 2 Extreme PC. The Core 2 Extreme rig is faster, but you may be surprised by how well the $500 PC is able to hang with it in Crysis, Call of Duty 4, and Unreal Tournament 3.

Just in time for an upcoming LAN party - if only I had any discretionary funds whatsoever... my poor gaming rig is starting to show it's age after 2.5 years...

Just to cut to the chase, here's what they settled on:
GeForce 8800 GT (EVGA) $249.99
Athlon 64 X2 4000+ $75.90
Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H $79.99
OCZ PC2-6400 Platinum Revision 2 Dual Channel $79.99 ($44.99 after mail-in rebate)

I've always liked the Asus motherboards, that's what I used in CrazyHarry, but the Gigabyte sounds nice. However, it's not SLI like the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital they also mention (which they say sells for $5 less...) Also, I already have the RAM, but I may need the faster speed for a new motherboard.
Again, this is an upgrade article, you’ve clearly already got a hard drive, optical drive, case, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and OS, or else you wouldn’t be reading this site. If you can, you might as well recycle those components and upgrade them as soon as your budget allows.

I'm pretty happy with my opticals, and my trusty Raptors in RAID0. They still burn something fierce!

Schneier On the War On the Unexpected

Following up on my post yesterday, Slashdot discussed an essay by Bruce Schneier, The War on the Unexpected. (It originally appeared in Wired but this version has all the links.):
"We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested - even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats... After someone reports a 'terrorist threat,' the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment... If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security."

And another related article in time for Christmas on Anti-Terrorism and the Death of the Chemistry Set:
A recent unfortunate casualty of anti-terrorism laws is the home chemistry set. Once deemed the gift that saved Christmas, most Slashdotters probably remember early childhood experimentation with one of the many pre-packaged chemistry sets that were on the market. Unfortunately the FBI has decided that home chemistry sets are a threat to national security and they are rapidly disappearing from the market entirely. Those that remain are shallow boring versions of the old kits.

Yeah, I bet those Sea-Monkeys are just plotting something nefarious...


Our Failure as a Country

As I read this article, entitled "Every day diplomacy," I was simply at a loss for words. I'm still struggling to bring my emotions into a coherent form other than anger, outrage, disappointment... sadness that we are screwing this country up so beyond repair that my children, my nieces and nephews, will either live under a dictatorial police state reminiscent of either the Gestapo or the KGB, or they will have to undergo a bloody revolution to overthrow said government.

What the bloody hell is so illegal about taking a picture?

Some things really struck me: The uncaring and abrasive attitude of the conductor; same for the police; and yet the outrage of the fellow passengers who actually stepped up to try and help this visiting gentleman. Yet, as one commenter asked, "...I wonder what would have happened if all of the passengers had refused to let the police take the man off the train..."?

Welcome to the Brave New World as handed to us by dear George W. Beware the Terrorists. Fear the lurking danger. Terror. TERROR. Good God, you can't read anything news-related or browse a news outlet site without coming across the word. Spread the fear, the uncertainty, because it will make us a stronger nation, right?

If we had these same restrictions in place, with a nation fearful of its own shadow, does anyone really think the tragedy of 9/11 would have been prevented?

Elections coming up. How will you vote? Keep the status quo, or tell the government that we will not surrender our liberties for such a vaporous promise of security?

Or will it even matter? Would either party actually institute change? Does anyone connected with the government actually listen to what the people want anymore, or just assume they know what's best for the people?

"...Same as it ever was..."


Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Or, as this excellent Harper's Magazine article puts it, "Happy Counterterrorism Day". In it the author discusses three lessons from Guy Fawkes Day (after providing the historical context) which would apply for 2007. Funny enough, they all boil down to George W. Bush's presidency...
Torture was a weakness, not a strength of the Government. In twenty-three years, this would be the accepted wisdom of a society sickened and revolted by the official use of cruelty and of torture. In one hundred and seventy years, a nation would be born committed to suppressing it forever. . . or, as it turns out, until the arrival of George W. Bush.

But the biggest lesson I think is the one which seems to habitually elude the masses:
It is not the People who should fear the Government, but rather the Government which should fear the People.

And then we sign away more and more of our freedoms... all in the name of "security"... sigh...

The Car of the Future

I didn't think I'd ever encounter another car that I could love outside of my Prius, with its high-tech interior and exterior, terrific gas mileage and ecological friendliness.

I was wrong.

Today I came across a gas-electric hybrid car (the Aptera) that, for $29K, will get 130-1000mpg. And looks like a freaking UFO.

How cool is that??

It's a plug-in hybrid, meaning that, unlike the Prius, you plug the car into an electric socket to recharge. But, unlike many other all-electric rechargeable models, the Aptera will run on gas after the battery is depleted (after about 120 miles).
So why pick a number at 120 miles? Well, it's more than double of most available plug-in hybrid ranges that achieve over 100 MPG. It's three times the distance of the typical American daily commute. It's a meaningful distance that represents the driving needs of 99% of Americans on a daily basis. Sure, it's asymptotic, after 350-400 miles it eventually plummets to around 130 MPG at highway speeds where it will stay all day until you plug it back in and charge it up.

Oooh, yeah only 130mpg, that's sure to be a deal-breaker... considering the Prius gets realistically about 50mpg max.

So, looking at the chart here, my daily commute from home to Monocacy Station in Frederick and back (about 90 miles) would be... about 300mpg.

Friggin' sweet.


The Microwave Diet: 8 Great Frozen Entrees

Stock your freezer with healthy versions of your fave take-out treats--ones that are delicious enough to keep you driving right past the fast-food palace. Honest, they exist. Just check this list, tested by a bunch of tough-to-please tasters.

  • PIZZA: Lean Cuisine Brick Oven Style Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza
  • ENCHILADAS: Amy's Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas
  • BURRITO: Cedarlane's Low Fat Beans, Rice, and Cheese Style Burrito
  • PANINI: Lean Cuisine's Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom Panini
  • THAI NOODLES: Seeds of Change Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
  • RAVIOLI: Lean Cuisine Butternut Squash Ravioli
  • MAC 'N' CHEESE: Smart Ones Macaroni and Cheese
  • SOMETHING DIFFERENT: Kashi Lemongrass Coconut Chicken

Read the full article for details on each entree.

Toyota looks to next-generation hybrids

As I have mentioned before, and as I will tell anyone who even looks remotely interested, I love my Prius. I've never been much of a car nut really, and my automotive skills are sadly lacking (ever hear of the time I killed a BMW by pouring cold water on a hot engine block?), but I am deeply enamored of what is essentially a big computerized geeky toy. So I came across this article which peaked my interest today:
The Prius was a big step forward for the future of green cars. Up next for Toyota and its rivals: Far more powerful batteries for next-generation hybrids, plug-in electric cars and eventually zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles powered by hydrogen, which combines with oxygen in the air to form water... Toyota showed a "concept" plug-in Prius made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic that's about a third of the weight of the current Prius and doubles mileage... The third-generation Prius could include a new lithium-ion battery more advanced than the current nickel-metal hydride battery, allowing more power to be packed into a smaller battery...

Drool. Now give me a hybrid minivan packed with the features of the new Caravan, and I'm definitely grabbing that up...


The Guild: Episode 4 - Cheesybeards

It's up! W00t!

Top 23 Snacks for All-Night Gaming

Gamers need to fill their bellies too:
The weekend is coming and you and your friends have an all-night gaming session planned. You know you're going to get peckish or even hungry at some point, but not enough for full meals - which would leave you dull afterwards. What do you eat instead?

Here are a variety of choices, many of them fairly light but deliciously satisfying. We can't promise every item on the list is healthy, and some require a touch of preparation, but they're all worthwhile just the same!

Now if I could just get a LAN party together to try some of these out...